What gets to me still is that there was no smell. I can’t wrap my head around its absence: as if it betrayed me by not finding me. We sat net to each other at the bar section of my neighborhood café, or bar, really, or both. They have cake and tequila. I hesitated. She wore a navy trench coat, her brown hair slightly too long around her face. I noticed these things, then, maybe because I was looking for somebody to pass my time with and I had grown accustomed to studying features as a pastime. Her hair, then. It flowed, but the waves seemed uneven and wobbly. Her eyes were focused on her tea pot, and she hung onto the edge of the bar stool as if she had spent too much time on there. “Excuse me? Could you please pass me the menu?” She received my question with little grace: I had startled her. “What?” “The menu?” I repeated and pointed at the narrow hardbound book to our left. She nodded, slightly, and put down her cup.
As she stretched over the counter to grab the menu for me, I caught a glimpse of her protruding stomach, sneaking out from under her blouse in a bold move. A small bulge, skin stretched over this landscape from navel to jeans. Her skin looked so soft. I swallowed, amazed at what little it took to make me upset these days. I wanted to touch her skin. She handed me the menu, and I smiled at her to express my thanks. Her reaction was hardly visible as she sunk back into her previous position. I waved at the waiter after unnecessarily studying the menu: I had had my heart set on gin and tonic since arriving. Too early for that, maybe, but I could already taste the gin and had to concentrate to not lick my lips in anticipation. When the waiter set down my drink in front of me, she woke from her reverie and sat up straighter. She then leaned to her right, just barely, in my direction. “Is that any good?” she asked and nodded at my glass. I noticed the whiff of her perfume, and the memory of her stomach crept before my eyes. I swallowed again, but I merely replied: “Excellent.” She seemed satisfied and leaned down briefly to adjust a tote bag between her legs. “I would have thought so,” she then said and refilled her cup from the white tea pot in front of her. “I’m having ginger tea to calm my nerves, but maybe liquor would be better?” I was not sure if she was asking me, but I shrugged anyway. She didn’t look, and my gesture just hung there between us. I felt embarrassed at thinking of her.
She sipped from her porcelain cup. The smell of ginger filled my mouth. “It was an accident, you know?” she said into our silence. I looked up. “What was?” She seemed to not have heard me well. She picked the lid off the sugar pot and dripped cane sugar onto her saucer. Arranged a road of sugar neatly in front of her. “It’s just really hard to tell when it’s too much, you know?” Ginger. I don’t like it too much. My coffee tasted like ginger, too, but that made no sense. I must have been mistaken. “You have lost me. Who had an accident?” She smiled to herself, at first, then let out a small giggle. “I did. Who else? That’s why I am calming my nerves.” I tried to catch her eyes: I felt like she was playing with me. Her eyes were evasive, however, and the smile vanished too quickly to tell. “Are you okay?” I finally tried to reach her, but she didn’t react. Instead, she picked up her purse and took out a brown wallet. She counted coins onto the counter and when she stood, she was taller than me.
“Goodbye,” she said and I looked after her until she had passed the big window. Only then did I notice her tote under the stool. I wanted to run after her, but I knew it was too late. Maybe I was lazy, or scared I’d try to say something inappropriate to her to get her to come home with me and let me touch her stomach. I didn’t run, then, I stooped low to pick the tote up at its long handles and it was heavier than I had anticipated. On my lap the bag feels soft and wet, and I quickly hold it away from my body.
Inside the beige tote bag lay a gray-black ball of fur, and I saw the tiny pink tongue sticking out of the dead kitten’s mouth. Its corpse made a thudding sound as I helplessly let the bag drop to the floor.